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How "Cheating" On a Cleanse Can Actually Work In Your Favor

Last August I went on a two-week cleanse. It was more of an elimination plan, so I could eat actual food, but just no food or beverages that contained sugar, dairy, alcohol, or grain-based carbs. In other words, the things I like. But lately I was having far too much of all of that, and I wasn't feeling great.

I made it exactly four days. By then I was such a quivering mess of cravings I decided to make a list of exactly what I wanted, just to get it off my chest. I let my mind go blank, and what bubbled up first was chocolate fudge. Not just any fudge, but a specific type of fudge from a specific shop on the Ocean City, New Jersey, boardwalk that I visited as a kid, where you could watch the molten chocolate goo being mixed in giant copper vats before you bought a box and gorged on it.

The list went on like that, every item infused with all sorts of childhood meaning and memory (one exception was number six: frosé, a.k.a., frozen rosé, which was odd, because I've only had it once and thought it was too sweet, plus it gave me brain freeze). Writing down all my cravings did diminish their power, though, and it certainly bore out the truth that they often have a potent emotional origin.

Cheating on a cleanse

On day five I went to the Catskills in upstate New York with my sister Meredith (she's the cute, much younger one on the left) to celebrate her birthday, and I caved. I ate sugar, dairy, and grain-based carbs, and drank wine. But we also hiked, did tabata workouts in the woods, and made nut-flour pancakes. I felt great—much better than I had in weeks—and those previous four days proved to be enough of a reset that I had more energy, discovered new foods (nut-flour pancakes), and still enjoyed myself during a family weekend. But I was more mindful, and when Monday came, I returned to the cleanse and (mostly) stuck with it until the end. (Here's how to cut back on sugar for 30 days without going crazy.)

The takeaway? Sometimes you need discipline and restriction to shake yourself out of complacency; a purge need not be followed by a binge; and breaking rules for important life moments is essential.

So whatever your upcoming family holidays look like, gatherings big or small, never forget to find ways to take care of yourself physically and emotionally, be disciplined when you need to be, keep a sense of humor, and have as much fun as you possibly can. (That's why one writer is giving up dieting once and for all.)

Just skip the frosé. It's overrated.


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